All eyes are on Queen Street, what with the current legal argy-bargy. (Yesterday, the judge said he hopes to make a decision by the end of Thursday – today.)
The funny thing is, both parties are kind of on the same page: it’s all about getting beyond the temporary Covid-response treatment and towards something more enduring.
On the one hand, Council wants to crack on with the promised vision: a people-friendly transit mall at the heart of the city. Consultation on the next steps is open until this Friday 7 May. Gen Zero has a handy quick submit form that makes it easy to support the project’s vision and ask for improvements for walking, biking, scooting and accessibility.
On the other hand, the Save The Queen Street Society wants to crack on with… putting everything back the way it was before 2020? But reportedly they’ve also suggested “a dedicated lane for bikes and e-scooters.”
And that’s interesting. Because bikes and scooters are practically invisible in the current consultation on upgrades at the bottom end of Queen Street, and I’ve been struggling to work out why.
The proposed changes between Customs St and Shortland St include bus lanes and an ‘improved streetscape’ – which, going by the artist’s impressions, means nicer planters…and some boardwalk extensions, a la High St.
It looks nice, but where will the bikes and scooters go? Ah. In front of the buses, apparently.
Take a look at some pictures from the Sunday of Anzac Weekend, taken over the course of about half an hour.
For the last few months, I thought I was alone in fretting about this. But in the last week, this apparent gap in the thinking has suddenly leapt into public view. Heart of the City pointed it out:
There won’t be safe cycling as bikes will be forced to travel down Queen Street in bus lanes, and there will be a whole lot more buses on Queen Street to contend with over the next few years.
City-watcher Simon Wilson spotted it too:
Council and its agencies have produced a good plan. Sure, it’s a pity they didn’t do it earlier but they’ve done it now.
And sure, it’s not absolutely great. It doesn’t, for example, separate scooters from pedestrians, or cyclists from buses.
I wish I shared Simon’s equanimity:
But it gets most things pretty right and, because it’s a trial, it can be built on. How hard will it really be to turn good into great?
Hard. In fact, quite hard. Think of the political process we’d need to go through! And the footpath extensions and planters will have taken the space that could have/ should have been dedicated to the small-wheelers who throng the street.
Todd Niall captures the constraints – and the categorial muddiness – of the current situation:
The council is creating wider footpaths, pocket paths and public spaces, and Auckland Transport has been given the job of working out how traffic should flow in the space allocated between the kerbs.
The concrete blocks and plastic sticks used to create more pedestrian and cycling space will be replaced with planter boxes.
That’s the thing about the – what do we call it, swing space? scoot space? shared space? free space? – that was created during the early Covid response by marking out a ribbon of road space, protecting it from traffic, and running it up and over the temporary bus platforms. Ever since it was installed, this ambiguous space has been used ambiguously.
On the one hand, it was nominally designed to allow social distancing for walkers, and painted with pedestrian symbols. But as it’s been tweaked and robustified, it’s come to look and feel more and more like the logical missing mode: a protected lane for biking and scooting.
While the separation from live traffic and pedestrians is inviting, the zig-zags around the loading zones are not. No surprise that some people keep biking on the road… and many many people keep scooting on the footpath.
You could even say that every scooter on the footpath and every bike on the road is a failure of design. The point isn’t whether or not people on bikes and scooters have been using the zig zag zone properly, or regularly, or at all. The point is that there are and will always be people scooting and biking on Queen Street – regardless of how inadequate the safety design is!
Any design for Queen Street needs to protect the two-wheelers from traffic, and protect pedestrians from the two-wheelers. Otherwise, it’s dangerously skirting its Vision Zero responsibilities – a worrying choice, so soon after the high-profile court case about a scooter vs pedestrian crash right out front of AT HQ.
And then there’s the climate risk, too: failing to design for biking and scooting on Queen Street means neglecting an extremely valuable resource for a low-carbon city, in the form of all those people who choose two wheels over four for their inner-city trips.
I dunno, they’re also just a lovely lively part of a living city. Indicator species, like kids, out there diversifying our urban ecosystem, visible proof that it’s healthy and growing and maybe even flourishing.
Perhaps the current court imbroglio is another one of those blessings in disguise, in that it will give everyone pause for thought, so we can get things right for the most vulnerable modes as we move towards that excellent vision of a low-carbon public transport mall with people at the heart of it all.
For example, the boardwalk extensions are handsome and were absolutely vital on High Street where the footpath was ludicrously narrow. But are they what the bottom end of Queen Street needs?
Could we not just use more attractive planters to protect the existing swing space for biking and scooting, maybe smooth out a few of the zig-zags around the loading zones, and roll a similar approach up Queen Street? Whatever did happen to the planters from the interim Quay Street cycleway?
Imagine a protected lane all the way up Queen Street to the fancy new double-decker bike parking unit at Aotea Square. As Matt pointed out, it’s pretty ironic that there’s officially no safe all-ages bike route to the bike shelter (unless you’re bold enough to ride amongst the buses).
Have you seen our brand new handy place to park your bike by Aotea Square?
Don't have a secure bike lock? We'll be there tomorrow from 7:30am with free bike locks for those parking in the morning. #AklBikeLife pic.twitter.com/Ci7BI9JUjR
— Auckland Transport (@AklTransport) May 3, 2021
Thing is, the two-wheelers are here – and they’re not going away. You really have to hope someone has been collecting the data. Given the growing number and variety of people on two wheels in town, it’s astonishing that there’s been no coherent plan to make sure bikes and scooters are safe from buses, and pedestrians are safe from bikes and scooters.
Refuse to build it and they'll still come pic.twitter.com/QD2eqlgpdQ
— geogoose (@geogoose) April 17, 2021
So, whatever happens with the Queen Street standoff in the next few weeks, the plan will need to actively embrace – and make dedicated space for – active transport as well as public transport, in a way that looks and feels good. There’s a wee way to go yet, but we’re getting there.
Because the good news is, rumours of the death of downtown are greatly exaggerated. As per this epic thread, and as per my photos above, people will keep coming to town, by bus, by train, on feet and on wheels.
And they’re especially attracted to the new square, Te Komititanga – which, come to think of it, is lined by shops, free of cars, abundantly well-served by public transport and bike paths, and capacious and comfortable for walking, biking, and scooting. There’s probably a clue in that, eh?
Queen Street retailers take note: The most successful part of your street is the northernmost end which has completely removed all vehicle traffic and parking, and which is completely surrounded by public transport, pedestrian lanes and cycleways.
— Nicolas Reid (@Nicolas_Reid) May 4, 2021
Yes, fully agree. Why not a bidirectional lane on one side, presumably east, cos there are many more buses on the west. After all there’s no safe place to wheel north south in the whole valley; nothing between the motorway adjacent paths of Nelson St and Grafton Gully.
I think a cycleway adjacent to a road needs to be two way, and it’d be better to have this on one side of the road, rather than single lanes on both sides. This gives space to overtake and avoid broken glass, as well as space to swerve when a pedestrian crosses without looking. The arrangement on K’Rd and Mt Albert shops doesn’t work, and I preferred cycling on the road prior to the changes, as cars are predictable than pedestrians who can change direction in an instant. I’ve had several pedestrian near misses and one hit on K’Rd, riding a normal bike relatively slowly. People are often just zoned out and don’t look or concentrating on their phones, often with headphones such that they can’t hear a warning bell or yell.
Queen St is a mess. I cycle in the traffic lanes, as the shared space is wiggly and uneven and there is too much risk.
I’m of mixed opinion about single directional vs bi-directional. On one hand its easier to access the shops etc from one directional cycle lanes on both sides. And it because its easier to access you end up getting more people riding in the lanes, and less on the footpath. On the other hand, once you’re going the bi-directional lane is better, easier overtaking, pedestrians less inclined to step in because it feels like s bigger space for faster vehicles. Etc.
I guess it depends on what K-road is supposed to be first, access for the shops last mile style, or a cycling arterial.
I agree that it makes more sense to have one bidirectional cycleway on one side of the road rather than two unidirectional ones either side.
A single cycleway using the same amount of space as two one way ones can take up less space and still have the same space as the two because there would be just the one separation barrier needed, and of course it will make it easier for passing slower bikes and other obstacles.
I also wonder about the inclusion of “dismounting” areas at various point alone the cycleway, so cyclists can pull out of the way of others.
Another huge advantage of bi-directional lanes, especially in more congested streets, is they allow emergency vehicles to use them, bypassing other traffic (and I think this usage is written into the traffic orders for London’s cycle superhighways), see:
“Thing is, the two-wheelers are here – and they’re going away.” ?
Don’t you mean they’re Not going away?
Great post – great photos! Bikes on a train! Without getting told off !! And scooters and cycles everywhere – so nice to see. My 2c worth as to why scooter-users use the footpath than the new extension? Smoothness. Going over cobbles and bumpy paving is no fun in a scooter. Rattles your teeth. A scooter-rider will take the route of least resistance, literally.
Fixed the typo, thanks.
They should see the addition of cycle lane(s) as an upgrade for pedestrians. It really would be a better experience for all and having the sidewalk that much narrower so as to add either a bi-directional cycle lane, or 2 one directionals would be worth it to them. Purely to get faster vehicles out of the throng.
If its smooth and reasonably straight then people will naturally want to be in it. Path of least resistance. Especially if you’re going faster than the pedestrians.
We seem so obsessed with Queen Street as a pedestrian paradise that we should ask the question, should there actually be bikes..but especially Scooters etc on it? If money is spent connecting all the other City Centre roads with cycle ways and not just Nelson St and Project WAVE and plenty of bike parking provided then it might be an idea to keep it pedestrian, especially lower Queen Street. I’m a cyclist and a scooterist but it not much fun having hundreds of them in the one area you are trying to enjoy pedestrian freedom. Just a thought..
I think you might be on to something here. But cycle and scooter access is required to some degree, but I don’t think it needs to be an unfettered access, high-speed through route. That’s not what Queen St is about. If the idea of more pedestrian space is to get people to linger, then what is required for people using bikes and scooters is links from the through routes like Nelson St. to get to secure racks or scooter parks, and then to become pedestrians.
As a visitor by bike I’d want to lock my bike securely somewhere handy for the shops I want to visit, and then do so on foot, not move the bike each time.
Of course, to be a visitor by bike, first there’s have to be a way to get there by bike, like Skypath or a reliable ferry service…
“As a visitor by bike I’d want to lock my bike securely somewhere handy for the shops I want to visit, and then do so on foot, not move the bike each time.”
I tend to do that only if I’m visiting things close together. As soon as I leave the immediate environs, I’d tend to take my bike with me.
These lanes are also needed for the e-cargo bikes, which are a big part of our sustainable transport future.
“Should there actually be bikes?” The post has just illustrated the demand. Don’t mix up a “place” like Queen St with a “place” that needs people to walk their bikes – short, narrow busy cobblestone alleys where the throng of pedestrians need protection from anything moving faster than a snail. This is a long street, and it’s a movement corridor, people need to be able to cycle within the city centre and from other areas, and it’s a key link in the network as well as a place where people on bikes and scooters need access.
Which is why I said an extensive network throughout the CBD.
Both Council and Save Queen St seem to have a fixation on Queen Street being this all encompassing place where people flock to shop, if that is to be the case (I don’t think that should be the focus) then is it wise to try and push to accommodate all these different types of transit. IF the competition is Malls then you wouldn’t have bikes and scooters tearing up and down a Mall. Problem is neither Council or this silly business group really have a vision for what it should be and are making it up as they go along, trying to please nobody and everybody.
So I’m suggesting IF the focus is on pedestrians and making it THEE place to shop then surely it focus should be bike parks every where and complete pedestrianisation other than perhaps Light Rail in the future.
In my opinion, Queen Street shouldn’t favour any other street like High Street, Albert, Victoria, Quay and that they should all get attention/money/bike lanes/better sidewalks/less cars/no emmissions
Agree about the network. But Council has never intended Queen St to be pedestrianised without having transport modes. Light Rail is part of the plan. Wherever we have buses or light rail we need protected cycling.
How about bigger Scoot Lanes on Queen St, with a pedestrian focus in the smaller-scaled spaces like High St.
Its only about 5 months until we know about the future of light rail. And if it happens to be the same plans as AT had for Queen Street, couldn’t it start construction next year or early the year after? What is with the sudden impatience after decades of Queen Street being stupidly dedicated to cars?
Even if they make sensible decisions about light rail then there are still several steps in the pre-construction phase that they’ll need to go through before construction can begin, and that’ll take years not months. Those steps include (but not limited to):
– Detailed design
– Land acquisition
– Further consultation
There are also other practical limitations around the capacity of the NZ construction industry. I think realistically the earliest we can hope for is for light rail enabling works to begin after the peak of CRL construction has passed (circa 2022), such that light rail construction is ramping up as CRL is being commissioned (circa 2024).
I thought AT had done a lot of the detailed design etc? 1 yr sounds reasonable to me for the remaining detailed design and tendering to Mt Roskill (phase 1) assuming it is not a PPP, so it could start end of next year if it is street level couldn’t it? What is so hard about “rip up road, put down rail” that we need to wait years to even start?
My impression was that they have a concept design that is detailed enough for consultation purposes. Pretty sure they didn’t have the sort of detailed design that could go out for tender.
You’re right the actual construction isn’t that complex. But getting to that stage apparently is, based on looking at a lot of other NZ construction projects.
Either way, why not wait until we know what is happening? For example, if light rail is going underground or not on Queen Street, to me that means they should do a proper job: close Queen Street off to cars and buses and make it a pedestrian mall post CRL completion.
Sure if Queen Street was in a diabolical state then do something temporary, but it really wasn’t that bad how it was, especially compared to many other streets in the CBD.
What’s wrong with a bit of red paint indication the (AT) design? Shows that this is something that the city is set on and isn’t just wind.
Also gives the naysayers time to get comfortable with the idea.
I’ve seen a few guesses from Wellington journalists that Light Rail might be a casualty of the Government’s push towards reducing Spending/Debt.
Those Median voters that could switch back to National don’t care about billion-dollar PT projects that they think they won’t benefit from.
Highly unlikely. Labour shouldn’t become the National party just to get their votes.
If they really needed to they could scale it back to the original City->Mt Roskill street level design that AT said would cost about $1 billion and pretend the rest is a phase 2.
Honestly just getting City to Mt Roskill would demonstrate viability (the patronage is already there on the Dominion Rd bus services). It’d be enough of a win to make further light rail development inevitable.
That’s what it will be, surely.
City to MR and will be a roaring success from people transferring from buses and new riders. That will build the business case for MR to airport.
I think SH16 NW will be some while off, given the bus priority going in there.
$1 billion to replace some buses with some trams doesn’t seem like much of a step forward.
Compared to spending $100 million on an empty train to Hamilton?
And I’d like to point out that this is Jolisa’s second (I think) post as a full member of the GA team. Great to be working with you, Jolisa!
And a super post. Let’s hope this gets sorted soon.
Page 5 of the Herald covers the Save Queen St lawsuit and the one by the lawyers trying to steal the RLTS process. So clearly if you want any influence anymore in this town you will have to start random legal actions.
Make no mistake, this will a massive improvement for cycling and scooting. Not as great as Low Traffic Neibourhoods, but really good. Some stuff I would look at: traffic light adjustments or removal, how many buses per minute, and how buses clog up.
Just fill in the loading zones with those raised footpaths like High St. Have electric buses only in the two middle lanes. And the two outside lanes are bike/scooter lanes all the way up. The footpaths themselves are wide enough. Remove a bunch of the weird paint colours so it is consistent and people know whats happening. And plant some big shady trees where possible.
Feels like it could take a decent long weekend’s work and it’d be done. Queen’s birthday is coming up
Whatever they do with Queen St, it should be of minimal cost and removable in nature until such time as they figure out Light Rail. Otherwise all we are doing is pouring tens millions of dollars down the drain.
It seems to me there is an unresolvable problem here to many competing interests. So could it be that the best solution here would be if Lower Queen Street is completely pedestrianised. So no bikes cars or buses. There could be a narrow one way path for service vehicles with barrier arms and security guards with machine guns to let them through. Just joking about the machine guns.
There would need to be barriers to stop drivers driving off the service lane or maybe this is what the machine guns are for. All goods would need to be wheeled into the shops from the trucks stopped in the service lane. So this opens up the space for additional business’s to set up in the former road space. These would most likely be restaurant’s without outside seating etc but some shops or stalls as well. The council would collect the rent. And we could have wheelchairs for people who just can’t or don’t want to walk. This opens up the possibility of roofing over some or all of the space. So now we need to think about where the buses would go and I have to admit I don’t know. Anyway with the complete shut down walking will be much much quicker and maybe we won’t need the buses. So it would be much like a suburban mall without the free parking but with access to buses and trains and I expect the total distance would be similar to doing the full length of Sylvia Park.
Lol. You do need to solve the buses thing, Royce, but the rest of this is great. Maybe not the machine guns.
So a bus loop running on Quay Street and Custom Street for buses going to bottom of Queen Street and another loop at the top Wellersly Mayoral and Queen Street. Bypass buses to run on Albert Street. One way around the loops all left hand turn.
Good post. Loved the photos. Felt a bit long-winded.
I already use the social distancing lane as a bike lane. It’s great!
Lol, thanks Ari – as the philosopher Pascal famously said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” Reckon GA needs an editor for us prosey types.
And yep, I bike in the swing space and really like it. So much better than being in front of or behind a bus.
The lack of protected cycle lanes for scooters, bikes and other micromobility in the current consulted plans points to a deeper problem at Council: the process to create the plans was flawed. It should’ve been firmly focused on meeting Council’s goals for our city, and commitments to wider, international goals. It should’ve built upon the consulted-upon plans that we’ve spent public money on preparing, and engaging on, and that are future-focused.
Instead, it was a reactive process that didn’t invite all interested parties to the table but tried to appease change-averse whingers by pretending there could be a clean slate for design. A clean slate for design was either going to waste all the previous work, and dishonour previous commitments, or it was a lie.
In this case, the process dishonoured the CCMP’s commitment to improving walking **and cycling** in the city centre. It ignored Queen St’s importance in the cycling network, and that the street is in the Auckland Cycle Network – 70% of which was supposed to have been delivered by 2020, and the rest by 2025. It ignored the Auckland Climate Plan’s modeshift targets.
I’d like there to be a review of how this process came to be, in order for guidelines to be given to Council officers that ensure we don’t have to face this kind of predatory delay and heading off course again.
Surely Council can require or conduct that sort of process review as part of its role overseeing AT?
I can imagine councillors who get it like Darby, Hill, and Coom pushing for this without much prompting.
Some things easily forgotten:
The current project is Tactical Urban Intervention, designed using a furniture suite that looks presentable, compared with the rapidly-procured COVID emergency measures. It is also designed to be rapidly adjustable, to deal with operational problems if they show up.
It is to demonstrate what can work, and find anything that doesn’t work, so that a permanent design can be developed – after the Rapid Transit issue is decided on.
It is needed now, to accommodate the buses that cannot use Albert Street until CRL is completed (above ground).
This post and the discussion shows that issues of bike and scooter access need debate and practical ideas.
Logistics urgently needs some co-operative and imaginative work and most of the businesses really need to participate in solving this for the future – out of court.
surely the long game is to fully pedestrianise it after CRL isn’t it? Maybe with light rail too. Not sure there is anything that needs to be demonstrated at the moment.
I like this post. Solid rationale thought and not bashing CBD landlords as being greedy or retailers for not be clever enough to reinvent themselves. Maybe, just maybe, the proposed upgrade is a dumb idea in its current form. I for one can’t see the benefit of wider footpaths at the expensive of cars, buses, delivery vehicles and scooters. As far as I’m aware there isn’t an issue with not enough footpath space for pedestrians.
Here’s an idea, why not consult with the landlords, retailers and other CBD occupants about what they want rather than ram through this half baked upgrade.
There has been plenty of consultation. Eventually you have to get on with what is best, despite self-interest threatening to bring in the lawyers. They want better access for buses but don’t want to provide for it. They want access retained for cars, who can’t even park there. And they are not the only stakeholder.
Cars have no reason to drive north south on this road. There are no long term parks for shoppers, no access to parking buildings, no access to hotels etc. Nothing. Its being used only as a thoroughfare.
Shopping? there is an abundance of parks on the periphery of the street. Access 4 Everyone (A4E) allows all those who wish to drive, to drive to Queen St, park and walk to the shops – just like a mall. To repeat: they can drive to and across Queen St, just not down it. Oppressive? Will it drive the 100,000 people living and working there each day to the suburban malls? Hardly.
Space is freed for bikes and scooters, and to provide better access for buses. Emergency vehicles can access at any time. deliveries in certain hours or park and deliver. Pedestrians on the perfectly adequate footpaths.
Its not hard. Other shared spaces saw spend go up 400%. Not good enough for Save Queen St?
To be fair they are suing the council like entitled brats, you have to expect a bit of flak.
As for cars vs pedestrians, I think we agree that there is enough footpath space (although at times it can be a bit congested) but you seem to have forgotten about bikes, scooters, etc. they would probably outnumber cars given their own lane.
“why not consult with the landlords, retailers and other CBD occupants about what they want”
Because Queen St does not belong to them.
love the irony of this guys posts, he sticks ‘the Democrat’ in his name, then suggests undermining democratic processes in all his posts because they don’t suit what he wants.
Good read – thanks Jolica. It seems we’re fighting the same problem over and over. So many Aucklanders really dont want (hate) cycle lanes, and are well chair led on this issue. Im guessing GA folks dont spend much ear-time on NewstalkZB – nor I. I spent a while last night reading submissions to the 10year council plan (not rltp) – its absolutely chock full of “get rid of those useless cycle lanes no one uses” rhetoric. Until people of GA understand that cycle lanes are mode-shifting congestion off our roads – we’re stuck in the hate-loop. Our politicians listen to their constituents – and many are screaming to save every last carpark. We need to win some hearts and minds. Seeing kids enjoying QStreet is great – images never seen on granny herald. Good work – more please.
Because probably the long-term plan is light rail down the centre just run bus lanes for now down the middle with centre stations near the intersections, way wider footpaths, planting, furniture, scooter and bike lanes on both sides probably dual direction for convenience, plenty of space for some loading zones etc but mainly up the side streets if necessary. Also taxi, electric/hybrid car share, disability car parks etc up the side streets. Allow restaurants, cafes and bars to have tables out onto the paving. Bike and scooter parking in abundance. What’s not to like?
By far the biggest issue on Queen Street right now is the homeless people. Numbers seem to be increasing, and maybe it’s just my imagination but behaviour seems to be getting more aggro.
It’s not good for pedestrians, shoppers, workers, businesses.
Yeah that’s definitely a Streets fault, silly street making people homeless!
The point is, if a city is littered with aggro homeless people who should be given appropriate accommodation and care, what does that do for the safety of pedestrians and the general vitality of what should be our preeminent urban precinct.
For your information, my niece got spat at and abused by one of these bums a couple of weeks ago.
I know several people who are hesitant to walk through the city during the day, let alone at night.
Yeah, that’s really good for walkable environments…
Yeah, round all those homeless people up and put them in some camp where we don’t have to look at them and so we can continue to live in our bubble. /s
Wow I was just waiting for such a stupid ‘woke’ comment.
These people need help.
Is that you Symun Brudges? Not very Zen of you!
I scoot everyday on queen st.
However I don’t like to scoot on the temporary lane because I the loading zone surface is quite bumpy and I have to zip zap the little sticks. Also cars can overtake me and turn toward me anytime without actually seeing me.
I either cycle slowly on the footpath with pedestrians when there is not many people, or I will cycle directly on road when I know the cars are waiting at traffic lights.
We need a dedicated cycle lane in queen st. It doesn’t need to be wide, but it need to be flat and smooth with barrier between cars.
Good point. Lanes for cyclists and for pedestrians both require smoother surfaces. Ones for vehicles need to carry more weight. Different construction and maintenance standards..